Feeding a child a vegan diet will get a parent up to four years in jail if parliamentarian Elvira Savino gets a new law passed.
Reuters says Savino, a member of the conservative Forza Italia party, has written a potential law that would make parents legally responsible for making their children eat "a diet devoid of elements essential for healthy and balanced growth," according to its text.
Savino says she has nothing against vegans as long as they are adults and are making decisions of their own. She added that she found it ridiculous to make children align with their parents' fanatical eating style without scientific knowledge of the diet and no consultation with a physician.
Some pediatricians advise parents not to put their children on a vegan plan because it does not provide adequate nutrition. Vegans do not consume meat, fish, poultry, or animal products of any kind.
Savino's law calls for a year in jail for putting their children on vegan programs, up to four years if the youngster develops any on-going health problems, and up to seven years if the young one dies because of the diet. The punishments increase by one year if the child is under three-years-old and would apply to all kids under 16-years-old.
A series of events that have occurred recently in Italy were the catalyst for the penning of her legislation. In Milan, a one-year-old boy arrived at a hospital weighing the same as the average three-month-old because of the family's vegan regimen.
The boy was taken away from his parents and had to undergo emergency surgery because of a heart condition.
And in June, a two-year-old child spent days in intensive care because of vitamin deficiencies from her family's vegan eating style.
"If even only one child ends up in a hospital because of this behavior, I feel we have to protect them all," said Savino.
Elle Hunt, writing for The Guardian, says the measure is known as the "Savino Law," and it aims at banning the potentially-dangerous eating regimen, that lacks iron, zinc, B12, and other vitamins, among children. The politician was in the public relations field before she was elected to be a parliamentarian in 2008.
The Italian Society of Food Science dismisses Savino's opinions, and the society's president Andrea Gheselli says that diets that include excessive amounts of sugar and fat were much more concerning than the risk of vitamin deficiencies due to eating a vegan diet.
And the BBC reports that the American Dietetic Association (ADA) explains that vegan diets are acceptable for children as long as parents are careful to supplement with the full range of required nutrients, especially B12.
The ADA, now known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says:
"Looking at all the options, it seems very possible to raise healthy children on a vegan diet, especially as they grow older and become adolescents. As long as parents are aware of potential pitfalls and take proper precautions, they should feel confident that they are doing their kids a good service."